Track & Field News

Bakewell: NCAA Champ In Her 6th Race

“She couldn’t have run a more perfect race” was the way Miami of Ohio coach Richard Ceronie summed up Karen Bakewell’s surprising 800 at the NCAA Championships.

Bakewell agrees with her coach, but she doesn’t have many other races to compare it with – the NCAA final was just her sixth 800. Formerly a 400 specialist (PR 53.38 in 1984), the Miami soph took up the event because, “A lot of people were telling me I’d probably be a good 800 runner.

“I have speed from the 400 and my cardiovascular system is really pretty good,” the 21-year-old New York native continues, “I was pretty curious; I wanted to see how I could do.”

After sitting out 1985, a year she took off from running and school, Bakewell was ready to try the two-lapper as 1986 began.

“We trained her as a 400/800 runner,” relates Ceronie, the second year Redskins coach, “even though she had never run an 800. She ran a couple of times on our two-mile relay team indoors, splitting about 2:13 to 2.14.”

Bakewell debuted in the open 800 at the Domino’s Pizza Relays in Tallahassee with a 2:06.97 behind Evelyn Adiru’s 2:06.27. “She walked off and asked me, ‘Is that good?’ She was disappointed because Adiru passed her at the end,” Ceronie remembers.

Race No. 2 came at home three weeks later to win the Miami Invitational in 2:05.66. “She was upset again,” says Ceronie. “She likes to be fatigued after a race, but she said she didn’t feel tired at all.”

After her next 800, a 2:04.18 PR for 2nd in the Owens Classic, “Karen walked over to me and was furious because she said there was so much more inside her,” the coach recalls.

“I didn’t know how to run the race,” explains the 5-5/110 Bakewell. “I didn’t know if I should ease up early so I don’t die at the end or something like that.”

“After a 1:28 time trial for 600 in late May, we decided how she would run the NCAA,” reveals Ceronie. “Instead of letting someone else pull away at 500m, Karen was just going to go for broke.”

Go for broke is what she did, never letting anyone else lead the race after the break. A 2:00.85 made her the No. 5 collegian of all time.

Did she ever think she’d do this well in her first year? “Well, I thought about it and I felt running 2:00 was possible, that it was within reason,” she answers. Her coach says she was confidant of winning the NCAA, but she downplays that aspect. “I was doing well, and I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I win?’”

No one showed her a reason why in Indianapolis and now Bakewell looks optimistically to the future. “My time has got to come down, and I know it will because of how I felt after the race. I mean I could walk away and feel pretty good.”

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